Category Archives: visit

Peace and Stability return to Ethiopia – no reason not to visit

Empty roads in Ethiopia (Photo Andy Bottomer)

Empty roads in Ethiopia (Photo Andy Bottomer)

Since the State of Emergency was imposed at the start of last month, there has been no violence, protest, strikes nor anything that should put off any tourists. Now the tourism industry is waiting with growing impatience for the embassies to revise their unwarrented negative travel advise which hinders some visitors getting proper travel insurance for their travels.

But it is not just the peace across the county, there are other positive signs for the future of the country and for tourism.

All eyes have been on the government since the declaration of the State of Emergency to see if their promised reforms start to take shape. And indeed this week the government have taken the first steps thereby increasing the chances of long term peace and stability for Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Primeminister Hailemariam

Ethiopian Primeminister Hailemariam

This week Ethiopia’s Prime Minister: Hailemariam Desalegn, announced a major reshuffle of his cabinet ministers as a first measure to bring about changes needed to address the issues flagged up by the disturbances and protests across the country over the last few months.

Parliament unanimously approved the new 30 cabinet ministers proposed by the Prime Minister of whom 15 are new ministers. The Ethnic balance has been addressed too, with more Oromo and Amhara ministers coming in and the number of Tigrayan ministers being cut back. More importantly however is that many appointees have technical knowledge or genuine experience in the fields to which they are appointed. The PM said that appointments were made on the basis of competence rather than party loyalty. In addition five of the new ministers are not party members, which is a clear break from past practice.

In another move that shows that tensions are reducing, the defence minister Siraj Fegessa announced that about 2,000 people detained for taking part in recent anti-government protests had been released.

The PM announced that travel restrictions that have required the diplomatic community to get permission for diplomats to move more than 40 km from the capital will be lifted soon, which will have an positive effect on tourism and movement within the country and we hope will lead to foreign Embassies getting rid of the unnecessary negative travel advise that is leading to both tourists cancelling their trips and a down turn in new tourist bookings.

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Ethiopian Update – should we visit Ethiopia at this time

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Me with the community at Mequat Mariam guesthouse

Many of our clients are asking if they should visit Ethiopia at this time, and what is happening in the country?

Some facts:

The Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency on 8th October as a response to a surge in violence across certain parts of the Oromo region. The violence itself was a response to the deaths of a large number  of people at a large traditional Oromo festival in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit), an Oromo town some 40km south east of Addis Ababa, in which people were killed in a stampede following attempts by security forces to stop political demonstrations.

What does the State of Emergency mean?  It is not Martial Law, there are not tanks on the streets, and life looks much as it did before. The government has taken increased powers to control the unrest and restore law and order. They have now powers to stop and search, check houses and so on. This has not affected tourists, and can only increase security.

The internet is working, but social media is not!

Some Social Media is currently blocked in Ethiopia. Facebook, You Tube and Whats Ap for example are not working. [Please note we are not using the Tesfa Tours Facebook site – contact us by email].

The 3G internet service on mobile devises is also closed thereby stopping access to the internet by phones where there is no wifi. However places with internet wires (broad band) coming in still get a reasonable service, and many hotels have some wifi working. Just don’t rely on it, in fact your trip to Ethiopia could be an internet ‘Detox’ trip.

Events in the north of Ethiopia in August and September:

In late August trouble flared up in Gondar, Bahir Dar and towns around that area (such as Debre Markos and Debark) there were protests, road blocks and attacks on properties.  Within a week this was ended and roads re-opened.   Since early September the only protests have been ‘stay at home’ strikes whereby businesses closed and transport stopped. This only happened in Bahir Dar and Gondar, and seems to have fizzled out now.

Where is safe to visit?

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Giyorgis Church in Lalibela,

Most of the north of Ethiopia is now safe. However the eastern side of Amhara Region – including Lalibela stayed peaceful and quiet throughout this time. Tourists are now visiting Bahir Dar and Gondar, and trekking in the Simiens without any problems. There has been no reason for tourists to stay away from Lalibela at all, Tigray is also calm and peaceful, with no violence. So Axum and the Gheralta area can be visited. The Tesfa community areas of North Wollo (around Lalibela) and E.Tigray (around Adigrat ) are also perfectly safe.

In the south the events in Oromiya were worrying and there is a need to be careful on any road trips across the region, in case there is any flare up of the violence. The Bale Mountain National Park, is itself safe to visit however it would be advisable to wait for some weeks to see if things will remain peaceful before embarking on road trips south from Addis.

The Omo Valley has been untouched along with Arba Minch, so trips there are also fine. There were disturbances in Konso (just south of Arba Minch) but it is peaceful again there.

Harar and Dire Dawa have been peaceful, although there were some disturbances on the road between, but that is now calm.

Danakil depression has been untouched by recent event, and tourists continue to visit daily. It is an area to which the British and other governments advise against travel, but it is as safe today as it was a year ago.

Will my insurance be valid if I visit?

Check your insurance policy to be sure. Most British insurance companies defer to the British FCO travel advise, and currently the whole of Amhara region and chunks of Oromiya carry the advise not to travel there unless essential.  However we are optimistic that the blanket advise for Amhara will be revised and become more specific in the coming weeks.

Is it right to visit Ethiopia at this time?

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Anne and her friends with a community in Tigray

Many people benefit from your visit to Ethiopia. And these people need their income. In places like Lalibela thousands of local people earn their salary or get an income linked to tourism. And these people need their jobs. In the mountains where the Tesfa communities provide stunning walking opportunities the farmers need the additional income that your visit brings. Lodges across the country employ local staff and buy where they can local produce. If these places do not get enough tourists visiting this year it is ordinary people’s lives that will suffer. When you visit you will be greeted by happy welcoming faces. All of our guides, drives and the communities that host you really want you to come!

Let Tesfa Tours help design a holiday that will positively impact on local people and put money into their hands, while giving you a holiday you will treasure.

 

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Should I visit Ethiopia while there is a drought?

As various agencies are reporting a drought in Ethiopia and the horn of Africa, with million Ethiopians in need of emergency assistance, I thought it could be useful to answer some of the questions people frequently ask us.

Is there drought all over Ethiopia?

No it is mainly in areas to the east of the country – lowland pastoralist areas for the most part.

Is there food available in Ethiopia?

YES. Ethiopia produces grows many crops and has a vast number of livestock. Food is available.

The real hardship is caused by the economic effect of drought. Those suffering from the loss of agricultural production and loss of livestock are unable to afford to buy food from the market. It may well be that there is food around in the country, but it has to be paid for and those with nothing to sell have no means to buy anything.

What will it be like in the Tesfa Trekking areas?

In Tigray and North Wollo there has been good rain this year. Some of the trekking areas plant a crop with a rain called the Belge (or short rains)t hat typically falls between February and April. This year the Belge was good (it is intermittent rain over the months). The main rains – called the Kremt have started across the north of the country (including the areas around Addis) and predictions seem quite good, although there are predictions of floods.

How can one part of Ethiopia suffer drought and another receive rains?

Ethiopia is a vast country with a high plateau in the north west with Africa’s highest agricultural lands, and lowlands to the north east reaching below sea level. The south east is continuous with Somalia and has the Somali climate not the highland Ethiopian one, and the south west runs into northern Kenya and South Sudan and has a more similar climate to those countries near the Ethiopian border, although the highlands continue far to the west and in parts to the south.

If some parts of Ethiopia have a good harvest can food be transferred to areas of drought?

In fact this is done by a number of agencies. They buy food from surplus areas for distribution in areas facing a shortage. However help is still needed to do this. The food is bought from poor farmers (through market networks) who need to receive payment. The Ethiopian government can not underwrite these costs so foreign support is needed – hence the appeals that are made by the World Food Programme and others.

Should I still come and visit Ethiopia?

YES! You will have a wonderful trip in the north, and you will be spending your money with local Ethiopians, supporting them and their families. Your trip is important to the country’s economy and to the well-being of the communities with whom you spend your time. You will not be faced with images of famine and drought, but in fact of a thriving rural economy in highland Ethiopia.

I hope this helps put the tragic news of suffering in perspective. It is not meant to belittle the problems in the south and east of Ethiopia, but to help people understand the size and complexity of Ethiopia, and to realise that coming here will be a positive move for the visitor and the host.

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